The University of Iowa

March 8 WorldCanvass on book culture, languages, and arts of indigenous peoples

February 19th, 2013

The stories of our lives and our histories are carried from one generation to the next through language.  Whether spoken, signed, or written, languages are complex systems of communication that evolve over time and are rich with cultural and social meaning.  As the centuries go by, some of the keys to understanding these languages and the cultures they reflect may be lost.  On the March 8 WorldCanvass, we’ll investigate the painstaking work of uncovering and interpreting age-old documents and written records, and we’ll try to get a fuller picture of the people who produced them.  WorldCanvass takes place before a live audience in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol Museum in Iowa City and is taped for television, radio, and internet distribution.   The program begins at 5 p.m. Friday, March 8, and is free and open to the public.

Phillip Round,  UI English professor and former academic coordinator of the American Indian and Native Studies Program, will discuss the relationship between Native Americans and the written word, a theme he explores in his  award-winning book “Removable Type: Histories of the Book in Indian Country, 1663-1880.” History Professor Jacki Rand will address Native Americans’ struggles to maintain and celebrate their cultures, identities, and ancestral pride through language, song, dance, and ritual traditions.  And filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle will discuss the making of their documentary “Lost Nation: The Ioway,” which recounts the displacement of the Ioway, who once claimed the territory between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers from Minnesota to St. Louis.   

Mercedes Niño-Murcia, chair of the UI Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and Frank Salomon, professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will discuss their ethnographic and linguistic research into the history of literacy among the indigenous Andean peoples of Peru. 

Catherine Hale, curator of African and non-Western art at the University of Iowa Museum of Art, will describe the Asante’s use of graphic symbols to carry cultural messages and contribute to the preservation of their social organization.

Paul Dilley, assistant professor in the UI Department of Religious Studies with a joint appointment in classics, will take us inside an international project to publish the “Dublin Kephalaia Codex,” an ancient Coptic manuscript containing previously unknown discourses of the third-century religious figure Mani.

And we’ll engage Timothy Barrett, director of the renowned UI Center for the Book, in a wide-ranging conversation about the power of the written word and the permanence of early documents as opposed to modern digital devices.

Please join us as a member of the live audience at 5 p.m. on March 8 in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol Museum.

For more information, contact Joan Kjaer at or consult the website:

Related article: Attending to the written record of Native peoples by Phillip Round (commentary for the Iowa City Press-Citizen)